“We are travelers on a cosmic journey, stardust, swirling and dancing in the eddies and whirlpools of infinity. Life is eternal. We have stopped for a moment to encounter each other, to meet, to love, to share This is a precious moment. It is a little parenthesis in eternity.”
~ Paul Coelho
When I was a child, our family never had holiday lights on the outside of our house, but we did have an annual Christmas Day ritual, and that was to drive around the neighborhood to admire everyone else’s beautiful lights. This was not one of the rituals I carried with me into my adulthood; however, this year something compelled me to drive slowly around my community to view the festive decorations. There’s something very warm and comforting about homes that reflect the spirit of the holidays. It feels as if, in addition to honoring the season, the residents have a strong sense of family and community. While this might be a huge generalization, it’s reassuring to know that we’re united in some way.
As a child of the 1960s hippie era, I found that this year there was one home that really captured my heart. It was a corner house decorated like many of the others, with lights on the roof’s perimeter and on the bushes out front, but there was something a little different about it. In the corner of the lawn there was a huge, brightly lit peace sign. I’ve always liked that symbol, but this year, in particular, it felt quite poignant, especially in view of all the random terrorist attacks worldwide.
In addition to peace, the sign also spoke to the importance of interconnectedness, a vital concept in the field of transpersonal psychology. According to Braud and Anderson, “’the ‘trans’ in transpersonal means beyond, thus implying the existence of, and connectedness with and relationship to, something beyond the individual.” It also pertains to “through,” which implies a connectedness to the various aspects of oneself, and the connectedness with the environment and interconnectedness to others.
As Anderson says, interconnectedness has very important implications for us as a way to understand who we really are, our individuality, and our true selves. Knowing and understanding ourselves is the first step toward understanding others, which ultimately leads to interconnectedness and peace.
The Sufi poet Rumi said it beautifully:
I’ve heard it said there’s a window that opens
From one mind to another,
But if there’s no wall, there’s no need
For fitting the window, or the latch.
As a spiritual individual, I believe that peace begins within. If everyone made an effort to bring peace and mindfulness into their own individual lives, then there would be a greater chance of world peace, because peace can be contagious. This means engaging in a daily practice to bring peace to your inner self—whether it’s through meditation, yoga, stretching, walking, cycling, hiking, or a daily bath—something that calms your body, mind, and spirit. Perhaps I’m being overly simplistic and idealistic, but we need to start somewhere.
A few years back, there was an op-ed piece by Luke Glowacki in the Los Angeles Times that posed the question, “Are people violent by nature?” “Probably,” he answered. To me this was a disturbing question, but as I read further, Glowacki’s premise made sense. He spoke about the war of ideas over violence and human nature that has raged since the 1600s, when philosopher Thomas Hobbes speculated about the “natural condition of mankind,” which was one of violence and conflict. On the other hand, Jean-Jacque Rousseau viewed things differently and said that culture and civilization—and not nature—was responsible for violence. I concur with his sentiments.
I believe that the nature of war and violence relates to everyone’s yearning for happiness and survival. During the time of hunter-gatherers, there was a fight for food. Some researchers such as Samuel Bowles of the Santa Fe Institute believe that warfare is necessary for the evolution of humanity’s exceptional altruism.
My preference is to believe that even though violence, and fighting for one’s beliefs, is necessary for evolution, it’s also a way for certain groups to effect change. Examples include Martin Luther King’s mission, as well as the strong lobbyists for peace who speak out today.
Regardless of your culture and where you live, you can promote peace and interconnectedness, and here are some ways to do so:
In the same way that putting up holiday lights is a decision, so is peace . . . and believing in a sense of interconnectedness.
Happy holidays to all!
Braud, W. R. Anderson (1998). Transpersonal Research Methods for the Social Sciences. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
Rumi, J. (1984). Open Secret. Translated by John Moyne and Coleman Barks. Putney VT: Threshold Books.